The challenges that Mr. Khurshid faces
India's biggest foreign policy challenge is to define policies that are consistent with its history and demography. India should align with the West when other axes which are dominant in the region are in conflict with the West.
The most challenging task for Mr. Khurshid is to define India’s position in the world, consistent with its history and demography. As from present situation India and its people are not so united in positioning themselves with respect to two major axes; those that matter in the subcontinent: the Western one and the Islamic-Sinic-Orthodox axes. Even though Indian newspapers are filled with the news and story about the West, particularly about the US, it does not appear certain as to which direction India wants to go.
Should India align itself with the West in view of hostility and aggression of two of its biggest neighbor or can it maintain its neutrality with respect to the two axes? India is a member of the BRICS but it can not stop India from aligning with the West as the BRICS is derivative and surrogate of the West. What India requires is a foreign policy where at least its elites, if not the whole of its population, feel comfortable with.
But then can Indian elites fully embrace the capitalism? Yes, as long as it helps them. The more important thing is that Indian elites, particularly the Hindus among them, in spite of earning wealth are much inclined towards socialism in theory. Can the demography’s general opinions and beliefs help shape the foreign policy of India, given that the majority is Hindu and the Minister is a Muslim from Uttar Pradesh?
Certainly yes! Mr. Khurshid appears to be gentleman and a mainstreamer. But then what do Indians fundamentally think about their society? Do Muslim elites of India, particularly of the North accept equality with their co-religionist? A simple and general reply to this is no. It’s not a question of belief in caste per se. But Muslims elites themselves do not much believe in social equality among Muslims. So what is the fundamental India law? To invest in inequalities and asymmetries and do much required lip-service in this increasingly inter-connected world
dominated by consumerism and nationalism. It also suits the ego of almost all the people and is consciousness-consistent. While Indians do believe in containment of disproportions and asymmetries externally, they as a majority do not mind much accumulating them inside. Indians as a majority believe in rescaled world; rescaled according to their wishes and beliefs—‘above us the others should apply the egalitarian laws and equality and below us we follow the rules of markets and bazaars’.
Therefore, if asymmetries, inequalities, differences and distinctions are going to increase with interaction and growth, would Indians accept irreversible dominance of the West, particularly that of the US, in this internet-dominated world? Consciously no and they would say that consistency is the property of small mind. So what is the way out? Indians elites would expect the Americans and the rest of the Westerners to skip analyzing Indians and Indian state and support the theories that they propose—the full and intrinsic belief in secular convergence. All Indians are supposed to behave as if India has a constitutional monarchy with Congress first family being its head and their behavior has to be oligarchic and pre-segmented. Mr. Khurshid needs to understand the psychology of Indians in order to formulate a cogent and coherent policy about the US.
But this is about the US. The rules for Pakistan and China are different. For Pakistan even the Centrist-inclined bureaucrats can accept the saffron parties’ version of engagement and containment. Pakistan just needs to accept that its society is divided though not as much as India is. It needs to accept that Islam is also amorphous and even the monolithic nature of Pakistani state can not stop emergence and eruption of conflicts inside its territory. India can easily accept China as more powerful country and it can also tolerate some arrogance from the communist state.
For resolving Kashmir dispute, which is technically out of his reach, Mr. Khurshid needs to accept the theory about understanding others’ viewpoints and he should take his Pakistani counterpart into confidence about this. The theory of no dilution of stakes with each creating some for itself and some for others too is the only way how Kashmir dispute could be resolved. Economic selfishness is the key to resolving it amicably and if India shows some flexibility towards allowing Pakistan to buy some stakes in Srinagar
and Pakistan allows swapping Indian interests in its administered Kashmir, then dispute can be resolved. Only thing is that the trust deficit and security issues would not allow the resolution of dispute without the explicit and overt involvement of the US.
The border dispute with China can be resolved by proposing asymmetric but equal relations (AER) doctrine with respect to Sino-Indian relations, according to which India would accept the dominance of China and China would treat India as its equal because of size, economic relations and modern consciousness. The bottomline is that both China and India would not do much cerebral thinking and soul searching about themselves and about each other. The dispute could be resolved by bartering, swapping, buying and by adjusting the net ‘cost’ by international obligations and even cash.
India needs to clear itself out of any cold war between the US and China. It should base its relationship on the practical points. It needs to understand that in spite of coupling in BRICS and interacting through Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), India and China are more like competitors and that they would certainly clash for markets and resources. But since they are neighbors they have to move along. The practical point for Mr. Khurshid is to accept the reality and apply complex theories and not necessarily Nehruvian ideology. India has the potential to become a regional world power but that comes by cooperating with the West. When the two axes are competing and conflicting then India should choose the Western one. And the choice should be clear without any hesitation.